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How 3 Kiwi firms joined forces on marketing in a time of crisis
Wed, 19th Aug 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

2020 is the year in which business models are changing and economic success isn't what it used to be, as all nations face the COVID-19 crisis head-on.

Organisations able to ‘pivot' may thrive, but those who don't have the luxury of pivoting had to quickly find new ways to survive.

“Using a term like ‘pivot' becomes a bit glib and belies the real structural challenges businesses face in times of crisis,” says Campbell+Co managing director Vinny Sherry.

Campbell+Co was staring down the barrel of redundancies and a disappearing activation and events revenue stream.

“Overnight our activations and events business came to a hard stop”, says Sherry. “Coupled with the inevitable cutbacks in our PR and Digital revenue streams, realistically we were contemplating letting people go, with no certainty or likelihood that any events would be permitted in the medium term, even in a post lockdown environment. But we wouldn't go down without swinging.”

Instead of pivoting, the company decided to seek the help of business partners and friends to weather the COVID-19 storm. Its business partners included marketing firm Stitch and AA Smartfuel.

Together, the three companies came up with an idea: a pop-up drive-in cinema, in the heart of Auckland. Behind that idea was a significant logistical challenge, particularly considering they had just two weeks to get things organised.

“Finding a viable venue, sourcing a screen and sound playback system capable of delivering in Autumn weather, building a ticketing and bespoke food ordering system, all while seeking approvals from relevant departments - Ministry of Health, MBIE and NZ Police – as the landscape changed almost daily, not to mention securing decent movies… for 23 screenings across 10 days,” Sherry explains.

With the help of Stitch and AA Smartfuel, Campbell+Co created ‘The Drive In'. AA Smartfuel reached into its 850,000-strong Auckland user database to drive engagement with the initiative.

According to the partners, almost half of all visits to The Drive In website came from AA Smartfuel members.

“We are a community-based scheme and being helpful has always been a core pillar of our brand. Kiwis really had nowhere to drive to, and it was difficult to shop beyond essentials,” says AA Smartfuel marketing manager Jordan Tran.

Stitch provided digital support that helped to boost speed, scale and effectiveness (return on spend) in selling tickets.

“Stitch delivered impressive results and return on ad spend (eight times spend) in such a short space of time. Getting the campaign up and running in a few days with the help of AA
Smartfuel," says Sherry.

Stitch's Adnan Khan believes it was all down to the use of advertising technology and customer data.

“You never have perfect data or systems, and in this case, the ticket purchase was on a different platform to the website, but we were still able to measure transactions and return on spend in real time, and then optimise the campaign based on ticket sales (beyond clicks)," says Khan.

“If you're short on budget and time, you have to box smarter. That means using what business data you can stitch together to optimise your targeting, content and messaging in real time, focusing on what matters, revenue and business outcomes.

The Drive In sold a total of 7,938 tickets and hosted more than 3,500 cars. According to the companies, they grossed a six-figure revenue, all in the space of a few weeks.

The initiative also saved staff from redundancies and kept three business partners operating during tough times.

The partners say there was no need to pivot – instead, they say it's a real-life example of marketing fundamentals: A core brand, product, positioning, and promotion experimentation, and being empathetic and attuned to customers' moods and situations.